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NASA's going to shoot an asteroid with a space missile

NASA's going to shoot an asteroid with a space missile
Photo courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK

It's no longer just the Hollywood story of "Armageddon" or a fun game of the '80s hit "Asteroids." Today there is word that some NASA engineers are actually planning to launch a kamikaze spaceship called DART to punch an asteroid at 14,000 miles per hour, just to see what happens.

Officials from both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are planning to start the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment mission (AIM) in October of 2020. The mission will travel to an 800 meters wide asteroid called "Didymos." But Didymos is not the actual target for the space missile. Didymos is orbited by a smaller 170-meter-wide asteroid known as “Didymoon,” with Didymoon being the targeted asteroid.

But before Didymoon gets blasted, first the AIM will land on the larger Didymos in 2022. There it will set up sort odf a base camp and accomplish a wide variety of tasks. According to Discovery:

... it will carry out an impressive array of mapping and surveying tasks, utilizing small cubesats that will be launched from the main satellites to gather data from the asteroid’s vicinity. ESA also hopes to land a small lander on Didymoon to complete the work.

After those tests are complete, the follow-up mission known as DART, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, will begin. This is where the real adventure begins. DART will be launched at the speed of 14,000 miles per hour and aimed squarely at Didymoon. The world will be watching to see what happens next.

Next page: What will happen next?
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